In the News
Edison now required to provide advance public notice of radiation releases
In a remarkable turn of events, SONGS is now the only nuclear power plant in the world that provides a 48 hour public warning before it performs an ocean dump of low-level radioactive waste. Since the end of May, they have done 6, almost one per week. The warnings come on Wednesdays and the dumps are on Friday. The latest one: Friday, July 31, 2020. Go to this link to see the notice. For background and commentary on these releases click here. What can you do about this? Click here to open a printable warning sign. Print a bunch and post them all over town!
Petition for funding the National Academy of Sciences study of cancer streaks near NPP
This petition has been a huge success. Over 1100 have signed on with an appeal to Representatives Levin, Porter, Rouda, and Carbajal to seek funding for cancer research to be conducted in the 50km area around San Onofre. Here is a link to the petition.:
Perspectives on the anniversary of Hiroshima
To honor the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima, join a webinar on Radiation and Women’s Health. Live from London, 8 AM PST on August 1. Since women are much more vulnerable to radiation than men, and since cancer is the number one killer in California and the rest of the nation, you might want to listen in. The keynote speakers are Cindy Folkers and Mary Olson from Beyond Nuclear. Register here.
Then read about what really happened in New Mexico 75 years ago when they exploded the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Test Site. After decades of coverup, we finally learn how the downwinders suffered from plumes of radiation and many got cancer. It was only a small 13.6 pound plutonium pit that led to a 40,000 ft. mushroom cloud, almost nothing compared to the 1,773 TONS of uranium and plutonium at our very own San Onofre Nuclear Waste Dump. What happened at Trinity is an eyeopener and sadly it may be a prelude to what could happen here.
Now go back in history to 1995 and the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima and the birth of the nuclear age. Yours truly wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times on August 4, 1995. There is no newspaper link to something this old so here is the text if you are interested :
A version of this Op-Ed appeared in the Los Angeles Times Friday August 4, 1995, the 50th anniversary of Hiroshima.
Targeting of Civilians Is Now the Ugly Norm
Mass bombing was made possible by technology, which
still dictates policies of callous disregard for life.
By ROGER JOHNSON
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quartered with the hands of war.
“Julius Caesar,” Act 3, William Shakespeare
The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City brought out the suffering that can be caused by a single bomb detonated in the middle of a city. Magnify the Oklahoma City devastation by 25,000 times and you have the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb. Imagine a freight train 300 miles long loaded with Oklahoma City bombs. That’s the equivalent of one modern nuclear warhead, just one of tens of thousands poised all over the world.
The policy of destroying cities with bombs deserves some reflection as we mark the 50th anniversary of the most destructive bombing that the world has ever known. The firebomb raids on Dresden in February, 1945 and on Tokyo the following month killed at least as many as the atomic bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From May to August, 1945, the United States dropped 158,000 tons of bombs on Japan, roughly the equivalent of 300,000 Oklahoma City explosions.
The deliberate killing of civilians is a relatively new practice in the conduct of war. World War II was the first major war in which the majority of the victims were civilians. Today, civilian casualties vastly outnumber military deaths in Bosnia, as they did in Chechnya. Paradoxically, as the efficiency of killing civilians has increased, the moral outrage as decreased.
There is a long and mostly forgotten history of the problem that the Pentagon euphemistically calls “collateral damage”. In the 4th Century, St. Augustine wrote in “The City of God” that peace may require violence against evildoers, but warriors should kill only with anguish and regret. This “just war” doctrine became elaborated over the ages in the Christian world, but it always held that the deliberate killing of civilian noncombatants must be forbidden. Today, the targeting of civilians is routine. How did this dramatic change in morality come about?
Indiscriminate killing was greatly advanced when airplanes became weapons of war. The first use of airplanes to deliberately kill civilians took place right here in the U.S. in June of 1921 during the infamous race riots in Tulsa, Oklahoma. White racists commandeered U.S. postal service planes and dropped turpentine bombs on black churches and residential neighborhoods. The firebombing resulted in widespread death and destruction.
On April 26, 1936, Nazi planes flew over Guernica, Spain and dropped primitive explosives on residential areas. This act drew immediate public outrage all over the world and inspired the painting that has become a classic anti-war statement: Picasso’s monumental “Guernica.” The following year, Italian pilots did the same thing to Barcelona. There was widespread sentiment at the time that pilots who kill innocent civilians should be tried as war criminals.
On Nov. 14, 1940 the Luftwaffe bombed Coventry, England, killing 554, mostly civilians. The Germans coined the word Coventrisieren (to raze to the ground) to describe the tactic. Outraged, the Royal Air Force retaliated a month later by destroying the city of Mannheim. And so it began.
The master of such planning was Arthur Harris, commander of the Royal Bomber Command. In July, l943, he monitored the weather patterns over Hamburg until they were just right for creating a firestorm. When conditions were optimal, his bombers dropped thousands of 4-pound phosphorous firebombs designed to set roofs on fire. As planned, a catastrophic firestorm of hurricane proportions engulfed the city and killed at least 30,000. Twenty per cent of the victims were children.
As the war in Europe was drawing to a close, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled from the Russians toward the undefended German city of Dresden. This historic and cultural treasure was of little military significance and one of the few German cities unscathed by war. The British and Americans, concerned about Stalin’s postwar ambitions, decided to impress him with a show of military ruthlessness.
On the night of Feb. 13, 1945, the RAF dispatched a wave of 245 bombers that carpet bombed the medieval city with hundreds of thousands of incendiary fire sticks. A few hours later, a second wave of 550 bombers was sent in to magnify the blaze. The next day the city was attacked a third time by 450 B-17 Flying Fortresses from the U.S. 8th Air Force.
Official estimates of casualties have ranged from 30,000 to 250,000. Some military analysts called Dresden one of the major atrocities of the war. Others shrugged it off and argued that civilians could no longer be immune in airborne war. As one American navigator who took part recalled, “It was just a normal type of raid.” After the war, RAF General Harris was knighted and became Sir Arthur Harris. In 1992, the British erected a monument in London to honor his achievements. But many now remember him by his other name: “Butcher Harris.”
In spite of the terrible destruction in Europe, the technique of saturation bombing was still in its infancy. With the larger and faster B-29 Stratofortresses deployed over Japan, the U.S. Air Force turned carpet bombing and firebombing into a science. In the closing months of the war, 75% of the munitions dropped on Japan were incendiary bombs, designed primarily to ignite wooden homes. The firebombing of Tokyo in March, 1945 killed 100,000 people, destroyed 267,171 structures and left 1 million homeless.
The killing of civilians by the hundreds of thousands was now commonplace, and this made the decision to drop the atomic bomb even easier. Accounts of the atomic bombings usually show the pretty mushroom cloud from above rather than the incinerated city below littered with corpses. The U.S. has always been eager to justify and minimize this historic and barbaric event, the only time in history that atomic weapons have been used in war.
Gen. Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, trivialized the suffering by telling the U.S. Senate in 1945 that high-dose radiation exposure is “without undue suffering” and “a very pleasant way to die.” After the bombing, the U.S. was quick to assert that the A-bomb ended the war and prevented countless future casualties by making an invasion of Japan unnecessary. While this cover story is still believed by many, most scholars have concluded that the war was already over and the A-bomb was totally unnecessary.
History now reveals that Japan and the U.S. had already been meeting secretly for months to negotiate an end to the war. Japan had agreed to surrender but negotiations were stuck over the Japanese demand that the Emperor be spared, a provision that the U.S. eventually agreed to. As for the dreaded invasion of the mainland, it was not scheduled until the spring of 1946, hardly a major consideration in August when surrender was weeks away.
After the war, a long list of generals, admirals, and high U.S. government officials insisted that the atom bombs were not necessary. The list included generals MacArthur and Eisenhower and fleet admirals Nimitz and Halsey. Did dropping the bomb really end the war or were there other reasons for the decision?
Many scholars discard the cover story and instead cite three other reasons. As the war was drawing to a close, top U.S. officials worried about the next great threat: Joseph Stalin and the communist empire. One of the reasons for the horrific firebombing of Dresden near the end of World War II was to send a message to Stalin to beware of American might, determination, and ruthlessness. The same reasoning was behind the decision to drop the A-bombs. Evidence of this comes from a personal conversation in March of 1944 between Gen. Groves and physicist Joseph Rotblat. Groves explicitly stated that the real purpose of the A-bomb was not to defeat Japan but to scare the Russians. Upon learning about the real purpose of the bomb, Dr. Rotblat promptly quit the Manhattan project. He was the only senior scientist to do so, and recently he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
The second reason for dropping the bomb was the intense political pressure which resulted from diverting enormous amounts of war funding into the Manhattan Project. Both critics and defenders of the project demanded results. There would be all hell to pay if all that money was spent and the bomb was never used.
The third reason was the technological imperative. The military wanted to know more about what the bomb did to cities and how it killed people. Scientists were eager to learn more about atomic weaponry and in particular they wanted to study the difference between a uranium bomb (Hiroshima) and a plutonium bomb (Nagasaki). Everyone feared that the war would end before they could use the new “gadget,” as Truman called it. Like Dresden, the military wanted to bomb an intact city rather than a partially destroyed city. Thus, Hiroshima was seldom attacked during the war to “save” it so that it could be totally destroyed with the new weapon.
The military objected to a demonstration (like creating a tidal wave in Tokyo Bay or blowing off the top of Mt. Fuji) because they wanted to experiment with a populated city. Of great interest was the effects of radiation on human beings, something that would be difficult to study after the war. In order to learn more, the U.S. formed the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission after the war to study radiation effects on the hibakusha, the Japanese on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who managed to survive. The hibakusha were tested and examined, not to help them but to document incidence of cancer and other radiation-induced diseases. The result was the heavily-flawed Hiroshima Survivor Study which was manipulated by authorities to trivialize the effects of radiation. It is still widely cited by the nuclear industry to claim that radiation from nuclear power plants is not harmful.
The fascination with the effects of radiation on humans continued for three decades after the war with 4000 secret experiments conducted with unsuspecting people in the U.S. and in the Marshall Islands. It was not until 1995 that the U.S. government finally confessed to these Nazi-doctor experiments with the publication of the 925 page report, entitled, Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. In order to apologize and admit guilt, the U.S. Congress passed the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act (RECA) which has awarded billions to tens of thousands of victims of the radiation experiments.
In Japan, the suffering from Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued long after the A-bombs were dropped. By 1950, over 200,000 Japanese had perished from the bomb. Very few Japanese soldiers were killed and ninety-five percent of the casualties were civilians. Those who died from cancer and other medical complications in the following half century are generally not counted. The Japanese government estimates that over 2,000 citizens continue to die every year, not from old age, but from medical effects related to when they were irradiated as children in 1945 on the outskirts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Meanwhile, the use of new technology to kill civilians continued to advance. In the Viet Nam War, carpet bombing techniques were made even more deadly with the greater payloads of the B-52. More bombs were dropped in Viet Nam than in all theaters of World War II combined. Unexploded cluster bombs and anti-personnel munitions continue to kill and maim civilians, 40% of them children.
In the Persian Gulf War, the public was led to believe that most of the allied air attacks involved “smart” bombs with pinpoint accuracy aimed at military targets. After the war, we learned that the vast majority of the ordinance consisted of old-fashioned “dumb” bombs that often missed their targets. The Pentagon insisted that it was not targeting civilians, yet it deliberately destroyed water supplies, knowing full well that the suffering would be borne mainly by women, children and the elderly. American public health officials estimated that more than 100,000 Iraqi children died from war-related causes.
In the British War Museum, a special clock tallies the number of human beings who have died from wars in the 20th Century. The toll is fast approaching 100 million, 12 times higher than that of the 19th Century and 22 times greater than the 18th Century. At this rate, we might expect 1 billion people to die in the wars of the 21st Century. Military analysts believe that a nuclear war could easily generate 500 million casualties.
Where is the outrage? Are our national priorities in the future going to be as militaristic as in the past? Fifty years after the war that made targeting civilian populations routine, bomber pilots are celebrated as heroes. The search for more terrible weapons continues. Today, the current conservative Congress has censored a Smithsonian exhibit critical of the suffering at Hiroshima. Congress has slashed funding for education, the environment, health and the arts, and voted huge expenditures for long-range nuclear attack B-2 bombers. The American public appears to be supportive since 3.9 trillion tax-payer dollars have been sunk into nuclear weapons programs alone since 1945. By this measure, all the ingredients are in place to guarantee that the future will be worse than the past.
Here is an important issue for everyone who lives in CA 49, CA 48, and CA 45: Does living within 50 miles of San Onofre increase your risk of cancer (especially for women, children, and the human fetus)? The cancer study to be carried out here by the National Academy of Sciences was terminated by the NRC. This petition is an attempt to show public support for restarting it. Please join with an RSVP indicating your NAME and CITY OF RESIDENCE. Please also circulate to anyone you know who might be interested or concerned.
The Samuel Lawrence Foundation
Invites you to sign a petition sponsored by
Phyllis Agran, MD, Professor Emeritus, Irvine
Richard Appelbaum, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Santa Barbara
Frank Chisari, MD, Professor Emeritus, Del Mar
Bill Honigman, MD, North Tustin
Roger Johnson, PhD, Professor Emeritus, San Clemente
David Krieger, PhD, President Emeritus, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara
Donald Mosier, MD, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Del Mar
Bart Ziegler, PhD, President, Samuel Lawrence Foundation, Del Mar
We the undersigned request that our representatives in Congress seek funding from the House Appropriations Committee for the commencement of research recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in a 2015 report entitled, Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities. If you wish to join the petition, please reply with your name and city of residence. If you would like to circulate this petition to others, please have them click on this link where they can reply directly to the Samuel Lawrence Foundation:
The representatives of those who live within 50 km of radioactive emissions from nuclear power plants are:
CA 24: Congressman Salud Carbajal
CA 45: Congresswoman Katie Porter
CA 48: Congressman Harley Rouda
CA 49: Congressman Mike Levin
The San Onofre nuclear power plant (CA 45, 48, and 49) has been discharging low-level radioactivity into the ocean and atmosphere regularly since 1968. The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant (CA 24) has been doing the same since 1985. No one knows for sure whether these radioactive releases are a threat to the health and safety for those who live in these areas (or over 100 million Americans who also live near nuclear power plants). The most recent research in the United States was carried out 29 years ago and is now considered heavily flawed and outdated. More recent studies in Europe have reported an increase in cancer risks for those living near nuclear power plants.
In order to address this important question, the National Academy of Sciences was charged with reexamining the issues. After five years of study, it released a 412 page Phase 1 report plus a Phase 2 plan for a pilot study of six of the nation’s nuclear power plants including one in California. The research proposes to study cancer in people who live within 50 km of San Onofre. If increased cancer risks are discovered, populations around all nuclear power plants in the U.S. would be studied. The research was never carried out because the NRC terminated funding just as the research was about to begin. Since the National Academy of Sciences is funded only by government agencies, this petition requests that Congress appropriate the $8 million necessary to re-start this research. This is a scientific endeavor which will improve our understanding of cancer, the leading cause of death in California. It is especially important for women, children, and the human fetus who are much more vulnerable to the biological effects of harmful ionizing radiation.
Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations near Nuclear Facilities: Phase 1 (2012) http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Analysis-Cancer-Risks-Populations/13388
Analysis of Cancer Risks in Populations Near Nuclear Facilities: Phase 2 Pilot Planning (2015) http://dels.nas.edu/Nuclear/Radiation-Health-Effects/Reports-Academies-Findings
The News in Brief Extreme weather displaced 7 million people so far this year making 2019 the most disastrous year in decades….Preparing for disasters has become a multimillion-dollar enterprise for developers. They are now buying old missile silos and remodeling them as underground condos where people can hide when the big catastrophe comes….Speaking of developers, did you know that Steven Craig, developer of the Outlets at San Clemente, donated $991,880 to help unseat democrats in California? And speaking of looming disasters, storing nuclear waste now costs taxpayers $7.5 billion a year. San Onofre alone has 1,773 tons of highly radioactive plutonium and uranium sitting on our beach for the indefinite future. Each of the 123 canisters could release more deadly Cesiium 137 than 1000 atomic bombs. (There are over 3000 such canisters nationwide.) Meantime, Southern California Edison has turned off 50 emergency sirens in Orange and San Diego County
Trump vowed to shrink the trade deficit but instead he increased it. The trade deficit is now running about $481 billion, way above what it was last year. Donald Trump and the Republicans have caused the national debt to soar to $22 trillion, a new record…..Who benefited from the 2017 Republican tax cut legislation? It was advertised as a boon to low income people but instead it has become a giant boondoggle for the wealthiest Americans which is what the Republicans intended all along. Take Jared Kushner, Chris Christie, and Anthony Scaramucci for example. They use tax incentives supposedly designed for the poor and instead these super-rich developers racked in huge profits, not by building low-income housing as they were supposed to do but instead by developing high end hotels and apartment buildings….As for Trump’s fake “charity,” a judge ruled that there was a “shocking pattern of illegality” designed to raise a slush fund Trump could use to promote himself. A judge fined him $2 million and shut down the scam….Did you know that the 400 richest Americans now pay a lower tax rate than the middle class?
Moving on to the environment, Trump has rolled back rules for energy efficiency in light bulbs. With more than 6 billion lightbulbs in use, Trump wants us to use the old energy wasteful bulbs…. Gas companies vent or flare enormous amounts of excess gas they cannot sell. Gas companies released more than 350 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere last year, about the same as the emissions of 75 million cars….A loophole in laws governing the leasing of public land for oil and gas has allowed Chevron, Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and others to avoid $18 billion in taxes….Trump has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement which was designed to help combat climate change, a world-wide agreement signed by about 200 countries. The United States now joins countries like Russian, Iran, and Iraq who have failed to ratify the Paris Agreement….An iceberg in Antarctica the size of the island of Oahu was recently shed into the ocean….Trump’s EPA has moved to weaken regulations on how much toxic pollution coal companies can dump into the nation’s waterways….Trump has announced plans to weaken vehicle emission and fuel efficiency standards so it will be legal for cars to produce more pollution….The U.S. Interior Dept. long blocked the plan by rich corporate farmers to raise the Shasta Dam. Scientists regarded this project as environmentally damaging, cost-prohibitive, and illegal. That was before Trump. His new interior secretary David Bernhardt is pushing the plan through at a taxpayer cost which may reach one billion dollars. Guess what Bernhardt’s previous job was? Lobbyist for California’s wealthiest farmers who want the dam raised to get more water for themselves….Finally, here is Trump’s new policy for National Parks: Cut their budgets and commercialize them for private profit.
Now the military bad news, not counting surrendering Syria to Russia and Iran. Guantanamo costs taxpayers $13 million per prisoner… The U.S. Navy Zumwalt class destroyer program has cost taxpayers $22.5 billion so far. It has produced only 3 ships….Are you familiar with the recent trial in San Diego of Edward Gallagher? Other Navy SEALS testified that he killed prisoners of war and took trophy photos with the corpses. He also used his sniper rifle to kill young girls and old men. The result of the trial: The Navy court acquitted him. President Trump congratulated him.
In the last election, Trump campaigned on ending corruption in Washington, but once in office he threw open the doors for perhaps the worst corruption in memory. Example: Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation who is married to none other than guess who, Mitch McConnell. How does she spend her time? According to reports, much or her time and effort is spent using DOT to benefit hubby in Kentucky. She also directs government business toward Foremost, a shipping company owned by, you guessed it, her own family….Dept. of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (net worth $5.4 billion and owner of 2 helicopters and 8 boats) was fined $100,00 by a judge for defying a court order to stop forcing students defrauded by the for-profit Corinthian University to pay back debts. Betsy is using her office to trash public education and promote for-profit private education…. Senate Republicans are blocking $255 million in funding for minority colleges….Meanwhile, Trump wants to cut school lunch programs for the poor. This could send a half a million children to school with no lunch….And did you know that bullet proof backpacks for kids are now in high demand….Scientists say the white extremist ideology is a common theme for mass shooters.
Finally, 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump and 25% of Americans still can’t make up their mind about impeachment.
Frances Crow passes away at age 100 One of the heroes of the last century passed away in August at age 100. What an amazing story about this Quaker activist woman who dedicated her life to anti-war activism. She convinced a B-52 pilot to become a conscientious objector. She refused to pay war taxes and the government responded by subtracting 15% of her social security. She helped get Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! on college radio stations. At age 92 she chained herself to the front gate of Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Read about this truly inspirational woman: Frances Crowe | Americans Who Tell The Truth
What do mass killers have in common? A disturbing answer: a hatred of women. A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women
The Richer Continue to Get Richer and everyone else is not. Analysts say that the next generation is 25% less likely to attain the American dream. Cartoons help illustrate what is going on. This Cartoon Explains How the Rich Got Rich and the Poor Got Poor – Vox – Pocket
How to Appear Smart in Meetings Here are 10 tricks to pull at meetings so everyone will be impressed at how smart you are. 10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings – Sarah Cooper – Pocket
Class Warfare: Winners and Losers The media are full of shocking stories of income inequality. While the median household income continues to drop, the wealth of the richest continues to rise. The income of the top 0.01% has skyrocketed, the income of the upper middle class has gone up a little, but lower and middle class incomes have fallen. In California, upper crust wages were 72% higher than the median income. Remember when America was the place where you could go from rags to riches? That fairy tale is over. But if you are already very rich, there is a good chance you can become filthy rich. The 25 top managers of hedge funds earned $11 billion in 2016. For these tycoons, it scarcely mattered if their returns were ugly. How does it feel when the CEO in your company earns in 2 hours what you earn in a year? Disney CEO Bob Iger got an 80% pay raise this year. He now earns $65 million a year, 1,424 times the salary of his employees. Even Disney heir Abagail Disney (net worth $500 million) called this “naked indecency.” But her worth is peanuts compared to Bloomberg’s estimate of the $163 billion worth of the Walmart heirs. (Think of that every time you buy something at Walmart.) In Britain, they are fighting back with “name and shame” the executives with outlandish incomes. Britain now has a public register which lists lavish salaries and their ratios to the salaries of workers in their company. Surprisingly, there is even some blowback from the 1%. As 5000 of the world’s richest gathered at a Beverly Hilton conference, they were warned about looming class warfare. The free enterprise system is not working and only a few are benefiting. According to the LAT, the message for Capitalism is: “Reform or Revolution.”
Self-Destruction in Britain Have you been watching the downward spiral of what was once a great nation? The politics of “No” has permeated every level of government and society. Political chaos, social distrust, and signs of collapse everywhere (America take note).
Robo Call Alert One thing politicians say they agree on is the need to do something about robo calls. Unfortunately, robo callers remain a few steps ahead of any attempts to regulate them. The head of one company called YouMail says he makes 2.3 billion calls a month. Robocallers from Uzbekistan can make it look like your neighbor is calling. When you suspect a robo call, answer but remain silent. Most robo calls are simultaneous multiple dials which are voice activated and will quickly drop you if you don’t activate it. Here is how to rebel or retaliate.
Who Assesses Trump’s Mental Health? The 25th Amendment empowers Congress to assess a president’s mental health. But who can decide or agree upon a clinical judgment? There is plenty of speculation that Trump is mentally ill, but no one seems to know what to do.
Big Tobacco Hooks Children on Sugar Drinks When the walls were closing in on tobacco, Big Tobacco diversified into another form of addiction: sugary drinks. They used their expertise in selling addiction to make sugar drinks attractive to children. A third of American children are now considered obese or overweight, and rates of Type 2 diabetes are soaring. “We’ve decided to focus our marketing on kids,” boasted a Kool-Aid executive. (Kool-Aid is part of General Foods which is owned by RJR Tobacco.)
The Drug Industry Spends Lavishly not only to influence doctors but also with paid ads targeting the public. Drug advertising has risen by 70% according to the American Medical Association. Drug companies now spend $30 billion a year to push their drugs.
The Eyeglasses Scam Getting ripped off on eyewear? Tired of bloated eyewear pricing? These are the headlines of an expose by LAT writer David Lazaus. After Italy’s Luxottica merged with France’s Essilor there is very little competition in eyewear and price gouging is the rule. Luxottica (owner of Lens Crafters) owns almost all of the brands you can buy. The founder of Lens Crafters admitted that the best designer frames and lenses cost about $15, everything above is gouging.
Why Are Tourists Flocking to Bhutan? A centuries old tradition in Bhutan is to celebrate the phallus. They are painted on walls, carved over doorway entrances, and worn as necklaces to ward off evil. Phallus art is thriving in Bhutan!
Beware, The Grannies Are Marching! Last month we celebrated teenagers who are taking up social protest. Now the Grannies are Marching. In Vienna, Grannies are holding weekly protest marches, mostly against the rise of right wing Fascism. Maybe the Grannies of the US should get organized?
Fascism on the Rise LAT reporter Scott Timberg writes that democracies are falling victim to the allure of authoritarianism. Formerly secret groups are now more open and brazen, and publishers are releasing many new titles claiming that the public is getting more interested in fascism. Even Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, has a new book Fascism: A Warning. Look at what is happening in Turkey, Venezuela, Russia, North Korea, Hungary, Poland, and the Philippines. She asks, can it happen here?
The Great Republican War on Democracy This is the disturbing title of an Op-Ed by Jamelle Bouie. Paul Krugman has a similar piece, “The Great Republican Abdication: A party that no longer believes in American values.” Republican advisor Scott Jennings explains that Republicans will never quit Trump – the former Republican Party is now the Trump Party.
What Country Develops the Most Sport Champions? In the Winter Olympics Games, Norway has won more medals than any other country. The score: Norway, 39 (population 5.3 million), United States 23 (population 328 million). The secret is surprising: Norway lets Children be Children (that is the headline of the paper edition of the study). Compare the way Norway raises its children and the way America raises its children.
What Countries Are the Happiest? The first four are Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. USA came in 19th. See the whole list:
The Kansas Experiment Ends in Failure Remember all the conservative Republican ballyhoo about the marvels of supply side economics? Slash taxes (especially for the rich). Slash government spending! Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback championed this policy slashing taxes more than any other state. The Republican legislature slavishly followed his wishes and the result was a disaster for the state. Brownback (now out of office) became even more unpopular than Donald Trump and New Jersey’s Chris Christie.
Israel Successfully Fires Missile Designed to be Hidden in Shipping Containers The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries has successfully test fired is LORA missile. It is designed to be concealed in a standard shipping container. It can launch a 3500 lb. projectile 250 miles within t0 minutes of opening. This system can convert any civilian vessel into a missile launching platform. The price is unclear as is who the customers will be but think of this as you watch the ships near the horizon (about 17 miles away). There are over 50,000 cargo ships registered to 150 nations. A medium-sized cargo ship can carry 1,000 containers. The Port of Los Angeles is the #1 container port in the country logging 9.5 million containers. Shipping companies lose track of about 1,500 containers a year. What could possibly go wrong?
Humans Origins and Extinctions A new 1,500 page report by international scientific experts paints a grim future for life on planet Earth. As many as one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction because one species (homo sapiens) continues to plunder ecosystems. As long as human beings are around, it appears other forms of life will suffer. As for our origins, new fossils question the standard theory that modern humans drifted out of Africa about 60,000 years ago. Fossils in China, Australia, and Saudi Arabia suggest that homo sapiens may have started their migrations much earlier.
Learn How Insignificant You Are Surprise! The universe has 10 times more galaxies than previously thought! The Hubble Space Telescope reports that there are about 2 trillion galaxies in the cosmos. Each galaxy may have 100 million stars. There are probably 19,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars similar to ours with at least one planet similar to Earth. Even our own Milky Way probably has 40 billion Earth-sized planets. Scientists say that the key to understanding the universe is to study supermassive black holes. The good news is that none is close enough to suck up our entire solar system and make it disappear. The bad news is that there are so many black holes that it is impossible to count them. Some of the biggest black holes (300 million light years away) may have gobbled up 21 billion suns. To understand how insignificant our species is, consider a 2 hour documentary film about life on Earth. Footage about human beings would take up the last 2 seconds. The way we are going, how long will we be around? Some scientists specular that this is our last century.
The News in Brief
New Trump plan to reduce poverty: change how you define poverty. This would allow him to achieve his goal of taking away health care and food assistance from millions of Americans….The Pentagon has spent $300 billion on anti-missile defense but half of the tests have failed, even when there is only one incoming missile and the “defense” knew in advance the timing and location of the missile….Rhode Island has initiated a “lunch shaming program.” Poor students who can’t pay could receive nothing other than jelly sandwiches to embarrass them in front of all the other students….Trump picked a Kathleen White to head of the Council on Environmental Quality even after she said that carbon dioxide is harmless and renewable energy is parasitic. Then Trump picked a coal lobbyist to head the EPA and a Boeing executive to be Secretary of Defense in spite of allegations of ethics violations. White was eventually dropped but the other two now control EPA and DOD….The 20 warmest years on record have all come in the last 22 years….The F-35 fighter jets cost $100 million each….Since plastics were invented, over 9 billion tons have been produced. Up to 14 million tons of it wind up in the ocean every year….The ban on plastics straws? Devin Nunes retorts: “Welcome to Socialism in California!” Meanwhile, the Conservative Politicial Action Conference warns America that the Democrats are coming after your hamburgers, “just like Stalin!” ….The Justice Dept. announced that it will no longer defend prohibitions against female genital mutilations. Your Justice Dept. has also stopped defending the Affordable Care Act and instead now attacks it….The Pentagon says it has killed only 108 civilians in bombing and drone attacks in Africa and Asia. The non-profit group Airwars says your tax dollars killed somewhere between 800-1,700 civilians….Economists say that declining wages are not because of automation. Rather they are caused but the current political environment which is deeply hostile to labor. Let’s face it, says Paul Krugman, our system is rigged against workers….Facebook has been selling sensitive user health information. A tool called Flo Health allows women to predict when they ovulate. Results are secretly reported back to Facebook which then sells the information to advertisers who then target her for products. Users are not informed and there is no way they can stop the data transfer….In the U.S., a gun is stolen every 2 minutes. There are now over 400 million guns in the country….On the brighter side of things, a group of astronomers on April 10 successfully photographed a black hole near the center of the Milky Way. This particular black hole has the gravitational mass of 4 million suns that have disappeared from the visible universe.
In the News Winter 2019
Trump Imperils the Planet In an editorial by the same name, the NYT lambasts the environmental record of the President.
The Decline of California Republicans A big full page story in the NYT begins with “The California Republican Party…is teetering on the brink of irrelevance.” And on Jan. 3, a Republican analyst posted this Op-Ed entitled Trump’s Damage to Republicans.
U.S. Gun Deaths Soar, Especially Among Children About 40,000 Americans died in 2017 from firearms, about two-thirds being suicides. Much is not known about the issue because in 1996 the NRA successfully pressured Congress to block the Center for Disease Control from funding any studies about firearms and prohibited the agency from advocating gun control. Today, the Republicans continue to block gun control legislation. Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine doctor at UC Davis said that the rise in firearms deaths was a result of “a national unwillingness to take this problem seriously.” The NRA has tried to intimidate doctors by mocking those who treat gunshot victims: “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” Meanwhile, firearms are one of the leading causes of childhood death in the U.S. American children are 80 times more likely to die from firearms than children in Hungary, Sweden, Tajikistan, and Romania.
Hate Crimes on the Increase In a worrisome new trend, hate crimes, anti-semitism, and crimes based on sexual orientation continued to rise in 2018. White supremacist groups are flourishing and schools report more and more incidents of swastikas, sex stereotypes, and Holocaust insults. Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism says, “We used to look at hate crimes as individual pathology. But now, social media has amplified and weaponize our divisions.”
Republicans Join Far Right Extremists in Mocking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez When this New York representative, the youngest ever women elected to Congress, was sworn in, Republicans rudely booed her. A far right conspiracy tweeter posted this: “Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is.” Republicans were incensed when Occasio-Cortez supported a colleague who used a swear word to criticize Trump, Occasio-Cortez responded: “Republican hypocrisy at its finest: saying that Trump admitting to sexual assault on tape is just ‘locker room talk,’ but scandalizing themselves into faux-outrage when my sis says a curse word in a bar. The GOP lost entitlement to policing women’s behavior a long time ago. Next.”
The Trump Tax Cut: 90% of Americans Will End Up Poorer Trump promised soaring investments, waves of pay increases, and a tax cut that would pay for itself. None of this happened. Yes, corporations became richer but they used it for stock buybacks rather than wage increases. To make matters worse, the Republicans have gutted the IRS and filled it full of loopholes, all of which mainly benefits the very rich.
Like Grandfather, Like Grandson According to an LAT Op-Ed, both Donald Trump and his grandfather were both draft dodgers.
Price-fixing of Generic Drugs Generic drugs were supposed to be a boon to consumers who are tired of getting ripped off by drug companies, right? Wrong. Investigators have discovered wide spread collusion and price fixing in 47 states.
Does Everyone Have a Moral Duty to Leave Facebook? The director of the Center for Bioethics at NYU poses this question. Many are slow to grasp the radicalization of the internet and how it has changed society. Social media have played a key role in the rise of violent right-wing extremism and we now know that it may have resulted in the election of Donald Trump. The internet is a playground for powerful unprincipled people who want your money, your identity, your values, and they want to tell you how to vote. Facebook wants you to think it is your indispensable friend when in fact it is a juggernaut behemoth specializing in deceiving you and using you. Recently revealed troves of emails show how FB executives using every cutthroat tactic possible to crush critics and competitors and to conceal their methods. Staff meetings often ended with chants of “Domination! Domination!” FB sells your identity, everything you say, and every picture so it can be used for facial recognition. It has become the poster boy for harvesting data, selling personal information for profit, and being deliberately deceptive and untrustworthy. FB allowed companies to search all customers and their friends without permission. FB paved the way for others to invade our computers. Now we learn that the Russian used a vast network of internet trolls on Instagram (owned by FB) to infiltrate American identity groups for the purpose of swaying them, usually in more extremist directions. People uncritically soaked it up. The Russians got 185 million “likes.” In another example, it was recently charged that The Weather Channel secretly sold users identities and locations without permission.
Right Wing Hackers Attack German Government Three years ago, Russian hackers broke into the German Parliament computer network. Germany responded by increasing cyber security but on Jan. 4, 1000 members of Parliament plus many other prominent Germans found that all of their personal information (phone numbers, email addresses, bank accounts, addresses, private chats, photos of their children) were now on Twitter. Those revealed had at some point in their lives been critical of the right wing. The only people spared in this Twitter attack were the politicians of the far right wing. Who could have possibly done this? Duh.
Sinclair Broadcasting Features Trump Fake News PEW research reports that 37% of Americans rely on local TV news, almost as much as the 45% who get their “news” from Facebook (only 18% read daily newspapers). Sinclair Broadcasting now owns 193 stations which reach 40% of Americans. Their chief political analyst is Boris Epshteyn, former Trump aide. Another producer is Kristine Frazao, a former reporter and anchor for the Russian propaganda network RT who recently ranted right-wing accusations that there is a “deep state” running America. Sinclair regularly attacks other media outlets as fake news but runs its own fake news: continuous pro-Trump talking points. They harshly criticized other media for reporting that Trump called Haiti and African countries “Shithole countries.” During the Obama years, they ran sleazy ads trying to portray President Obama as a Muslim. Most recently, they defended the use of tear gas on migrants.
Two things are alarming about Sinclair. First, their news programs come across as local news on ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliates and viewers don’t realize that they are getting fake news biased by Sinclair’s political leanings. Second, local anchors are required to report some segments even if they totally disagree with the contents. Sinclair calls these segments “must run segments” which local stations cannot omit. Some derisively call these segments “Trump-a-grams.” One local news director says: “These MUST Run. If they do not, my job is on the line.”
These segments praise Trump profusely, just like FOX News. In return, Trump praises Sinclair (just like he promotes FOX and even uses their “news” to make policy decisions). Trump says:
“So funny to watch Fake News Networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
It is not only social media like Facebook which is deeply involved in spreading political misinformation. It is now major TV networks like Sinclair. The Vox report cited above concluded that these efforts profoundly affect what millions know about the world. The goal is to “help the Republican Party and the Trump administration.”
Does Trump Represent the Real America? It is commonly thought that Trump is an aberration and does not represent the Soul of America. But what if he is the “real” America? Why do 40% of Americans support him no matter what he says or does? His strongest supporters are those who label themselves as “values” voters, even though it seems to everyone else that Trump totally lacks moral values. Research shows that stubborn ideology often “trumps” facts and that many voters have no problem with politicians who lie. Everyone knows that Trump is a dedicated liar, but many don’t care. “He may be a liar, but he’s my liar.” More troubling is the possibility that Trumpism simply reflects a long history of American values: slavery, the genocidal history of the conquest of native Americans, militarism, endless wars, sexism, racism, greed, worship of guns, deference to the rich, trampling on the poor, criminalizing behavior of the poor but not behavior of the rich, etc. Will Trumpism ever end, even after he is gone?
How do Republics Die? A new book, noted historian Edward Watts chronicles how the Roman empire slowly weakened and then rapidly collapsed. The author said that his goal is to allow “readers to better appreciate the serious problems that result both from politicians who breach political norms and for citizens who choose not to punish them.” The Roman Empire became dominated by patricians who loathed reform, profited from inequality, and would not embrace the common good. The book reviewer sees Donald Trump as a farcical reincarnation of Tiberius Gracchus. He pessimistically concludes that “The challenge to American’s political system is likely to persist long after its present occupant has left the White House.”
What Trump Aides Say about Him Trump tweets that his administration is “a smoothly running machine.” But a record number of top officials have resigned or been fired, 23 so far. Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) has a new book Fear in which he reveals dysfunctional leadership and disdain among top aides and resulted in a “nervous breakdown” within the administration. Trump’s top economic advisor (Gary Cohn) stole a letter from his desk to prevent Trump from signing it. Secretary of Defense Mattis said that Trump had the comprehension of a fifth grader. “He is an idiot,” said Chief of Staff John Kelly. “It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” National Security McMaster said that Trump is a “dope” no smarter than a kindergartner.” On the other hand, many former Trump advisors such as Hope Hicks (now at FOX News) have no criticisms of the President.
Who is Keeping Everyone Laughing? Like every Shakespeare tragedy, no matter how bad things get you always have to end with something uplifting. So here is Timothy Egan who writes that Trump is the most darkly comic person ever to occupy the White House. He says that the poop backing up in the National Parks is a fitting image of Trump, the man who tells a 7 year old on Christmas eve that there is no Santa. Hopefully, Mark Twain is right; “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”
More News in Brief In major elections, 87% of Belgians vote. Over 70% vote in Germany Norway, Hungary, Finland, New Zealand, Israel, the Netherlands, South Korea, Australia, Denmark, and Sweden. In the last presidential election, only 55% of Americans bothered to vote….In 2016, there were 18,489 buttocks augmentation operations in the U.S., a 26% increase over 2015….In ancient Rome, about 20-40% of babies were left to die of exposure….About 80% of Christmas trees in the U.S. are artificial….The world population of people over 60 will double to 2.1 billion by 2050….Japan decided to resume commercial whale hunting and stop pretending that they were doing “research”…. Unnoticed for 4 years, hackers siphoned off a treasure trove of personal information from 500 million customers of Marriott and Starwood. Names, addresses, email accounts, credit card accounts, birth dates, travel histories, passport numbers, you name it….700 million people views China’s annual Lunar New Year TV program….Cats are cheaper to insure than dogs.
Choice Letters to the Editor NYT
To the Editor Re “Trump Imperils the Planet” (editorial, Dec. 28):
This editorial is correct about the destructiveness of President Trump’s actions on climate change. It accurately and poignantly portrays the status of the climate change movement. It is buttressed with historical and scientific fact. It impassionedly appeals to our hearts, minds and souls.
Unfortunately, however, it misses what would be most effective — namely, removing the corrupt power of oil companies and other wealthy interests over government. This power is exerted through the legal bribery of public officials with lobbying and other money by the rich heads of private industries. And that problem could be fixed by rewriting campaign finance law.
No matter how persuasive the pro-climate argument, no matter how great a majority of the public can be convinced to support climate change action, that action will not happen so long as government officials depend for their political livelihood on the fossil fuel industry.
Art Saluk, Pembroke Pines, Fla.
To the Editor Re The Wall
It’s not about the wall. The $5 billion that President trump is asking for is 1/880th of the estimated $4.4 trillion federal budget for 2019. It’s about the president.
It’s about telling lies nearly every day.
It’s about trying to kill Obamacare.
It’s about separating migrant toddlers from their families.
It’s about pulling out of the Paris climate accord.
It’s about believing Vladimir Putin rather than our own intelligence agencies.
It’s about ruining the holidays for 5,000 troops by sending them to the Mexican border in order to make a political statement.
It’s about defending white supremacists.
It’s about calling the press the enemy of the people.
It’s about hiding tax returns.
It’s about being a jerk for two years.
William Goldman, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
To the Editor Re “Trump lying is still a big deal” Dec. 28
How numb have we become to the lies of President Trump?” He travels to Iraq and stands before our troops and lies to their faces about how he got them a 10% pay raise. His comments were not misstatements; rather they were a part of a completely fabricated story that he had concocted.
If I had written the headline, it would have read, “Commander in chief lies to our troops.”
Larry Macedo, West Hills
To the Editor Re “Trump’s Lies,” by David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson (Op-Chart, Sunday Review, June 25):
I greatly appreciate the presentation of President Trump’s lies over these last five months, but I doubt that their publication will deter this president from continuing his mendacious behavior. Simply put, lying works for him: It gets him lots of headlines, and his supporters seem pleased that the mainstream media appears to be quite frustrated.
The bigger problem is that printing and broadcasting Mr. Trump’s lies isn’t having much effect on his tens of millions of supporters. They still tell pollsters that Mr. Trump is their voice. If we want to peel away Trump supporters, we have to not just publicize his lies but also demonstrate how the president’s actions threaten or hurt them personally. And, above all, we have to present better policies for all Americans.
INCLINE VILLAGE, NEV.
To the Editor:
Your comprehensive list failed to cite the president’s most egregious lie, which occurred on Jan. 20, when Donald Trump swore to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
ROBERT WIENER, PARIS
Pollution May Diminish Thinking Skills Anyone who has been to Beijing has been alarmed with the thick smog in which you can barely see anything in front of you. A large new study suggests a link between air pollution and adverse effects on math and language skills.
Trump Wants the EPA to OK More Pollution Get ready for more pollution here at home. Caving to industry pressure and directives from Trump, the EPA is revising pollution standards to permit more particulate release, the kind linked to heart and lung disease. The government’s own analysis reveals that there will be about 1,400 premature deaths per year as a result, but Trump feels this is worth it because it means more profits for the coal industry executives who support him. Trump is also trying to ease pollution standards for cars. Trump officials in the EPA also want to ease restrictions on the pesticides which cause respiratory complications, developmental disorders, and lower the IQ of farm workers. More broadly, the Trump administration is engaging in an all-out war on science. Once-trusted scientific studies based on years of data collection are now discarded and replaced with political judgments. CropLife America, the main agricultural trade group, is demanding a halt to regulatory decisions based on scientific epidemiological studies. To read more, click here, here, and here.
Trump and Giuliani Speak Out in Favor of Corruption in Romania. Romania has long been considered one of the most corrupt states in Europe. Lawmakers are finally making efforts to root out graft, but in wades Giuliani with an Aug. 22 letter blasting these efforts. Giuliani demands that officials convicted of crimes of corruption should be grated amnesty.
Get Ready for Ugly Political Trash Political campaigns of all persuasions are gearing up for a barrage of robocalls, digital ads, and attack commercials. In the last week of August, the Congressional Leadership Fund (actually a Republican superpac) spent $3.2 million on attack ads in our area. These ads malign Democratic challengers to Republican House seats. By the way, hang up on any push polls. A push poll starts off like a real poll attempting to learn your opinion. In reality, they don’t care a hoot about your opinion and instead they want to feed you heavily slanted propaganda or even lies. “Now let me read you some statements about Congressman X’s opponent. Do you know he beats his wife and was arrested for drunk driving when he was 19?” That is a push poll.
Fake Media Did you notice what FOX News was reporting on the blockbuster news day of Aug 21 when Cohen pleaded guilty and Manafort was convicted? All the networks were awash with explosive news…except FOX News which instead focused on an alleged crime by an immigrant in Iowa. But maybe at least some viewers are finally getting it: On that date, FOX fell into third place in ratings behind MSNBC and CNN. It is amazing that it has taken so long for people to realize that the Trump Channel is the real Fake News Channel.
Trump’s Personal Fake Media In addition to FOX news fake media, Trump also has control over the tabloid media. The CEO of The National Enquirer is David Pecker, a personal pal of Donald Trump. Trump considers the tabloid to be legitimate media perhaps because it raves about him and attacks his enemies. Trump also likes The National Inquirer because it does “catch and kill” journalism which means they issue hush money and buy the rights to any bad publicity about Trump so it never gets published anywhere. Apparently they have a special secret safe where they locked up decades worth of bad news about Trump.
Is Facebook a Bore or a Major Threat to Society? Speaking of fake media, people are wondering if FB could be much worse than a mere scam. FB willingly participates in political hacking, collaborates with foreign governments to sway elections, offers a platform for all kinds of malicious purposes, and its top people continue to lie. A recent study in Germany found that Facebook usage was directly linked to violence against refugees. In Sri Lanka, FB posts have been tied to violence against Muslims. FB is being sued because it has been used to discriminate in housing on the basis of race and religion. On Sept. 4, the NYT ran a frontpage lead story about how Libyan fighters use FB to buy arms and locate and then kill their foes. Roger Cohen writes that FB is responsible for social harm that goes way beyond privacy. To read more, click here, here, here , and here.
Fake Milk or Real Milk? Did you know that Americans now drink about half as much cow’s milk as they did in 1970? But what is milk? The Milk War escalated recently when the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said, “An almond doesn’t lactate.” Is alternative milk like alternative facts?
Education Secretary De Vos Wants to Make it Harder to Prosecute Sexual Assault, Rape, and Harassment on Campus Secretary De Vos is not content with diverting tax payer education dollars away from public schools and into her family business of charter schools. Now she is preparing new policies on campus sexual misconduct which would bolster the rights of those accused of crimes and make it easier for institutions to avoid liability. But wait, Betsy also wants to divert taxpayer money from a federal grant program in order to fund the purchase of guns by school systems. The goal is to have lots of people with guns in every school. Here is what the NYT has to say about Betsy. Click here for another article.
Worldwide Gun Violence Betsy De Vos should read a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association which reported that in 2016, 215,269 people were killed by guns (this figure does not include armed conflicts). That is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child in a city like Glendale, Arizona. There are about a billion guns in the world, many of them made in the U.S. About 35% of the gun suicides in the world take place in the U.S. The risk of dying from bullets in the United States is 100 times greater than it is in Singapore. This report concludes that firearms are an important public health problem with severe social and economic costs.
What Conservative Government Means in Britain Northhamptonshire is a Conservative Party bastion sprinkled with affluent aristocratic estates. But the town of Northhampton is broke. The conservative government’s solution is to slash budgets. Libraries have been shuttered, road repairs have ceased, trash collection has dwindled, and child care is on the chopping block. The Conservatives preach austerity politics which protect the rich and harm the poor. People are finally rebelling and calling it “criminal politics.”
New Arms Race in Space While the Trump administration cuts back on health, education, and most social programs, it is writing blank checks for anything to do with missiles and space weapons. Trump is determined to weaponize space. The Pentagon has secret apparently unlimited budgets for building armed space stations that can shoot down other satellites or conduct war on Earth from above. There is even a plan to add a sixth branch of the armed services (along with army, navy, air force, etc.) to be called the Space Force. Billions are being set aside for all the trappings from uniforms to administrative buildings. In the meantime, the Pentagon is experimenting with the HTV-2 Hypersonic Technology Vehicle which can travel at 5 times the speed of sound. In addition, the Pentagon has now spent $40 million on their newest missile defense system which includes launch silos near Lompoc, California. The idea is to make people think we need not worry about North Korean missiles which can now reach any part of the United States. We will just shoot them down! Unfortunately, the program is a failure even after draining our tax dollars. Tests showed that the missiles failed 50% of the time. So if enemies want to hit 20 targets, they launch 40 missiles. San Onofre would probably be a prime target since even a conventional warhead would be an astronomic force multiplier. Sitting at ground level are thin stainless steel canisters holding the plutonium equivalent of 17,000 atom bombs. To read more, click here and here.
The Truth about the Health Effects of Drinking The health journal Lancet claimed to publish the definitive meta-analysis of the pros and cons of drinking. Unfortunately, they muddled the waters and the truth is: It Depends. Read an analysis.
The Republican Show of Hypocrisy As the draft-dodger president insults the war hero, Republicans back the president but pretend to honor John McCain. Or as the NYT puts it: “Congressional Republicans made a show of honoring John McCain, even as they continue to reject his principles.” See the photo before the casket with McConnell, Ryan, Pence and other Republicans who owe their career to the unprincipled behavior that McCain despised.
Will the Birthplace of Modern Conservatism Turn Blue? The New York Times zeros in on Orange County: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/06/opinion/columnists/orange-county-california-midterm-democratic-party.html
A New Era in Astronomy Astronomers have spent a century searching for the source of cosmic rays which are the key to understanding the nature of the universe. Unfortunately, cosmic rays are warped by magnetic fields so it is impossible to tell where they came from. Tiny and elusive neutrinos are not affected. It takes 10 billion neutrinos to equal the mass of a proton, and billions pass through your fingertips every second. Scientists have now succeeded in identifying 28 neutrinos and have traced their origins into deep space to a powerful blazar named TXS 0506+056, which sits just beneath the arm of the constellation Orion. Read all about neutrino astronomy.
The Real Duncan Hunter Read this NYT front page expose` of the real Duncan Hunter and what he does in his spare time.
Liberals, You’re Not As Smart as You Think This is the headline of an Op-Ed by a professor of politics.
Is Trump a Symptom or a Cause of What’s Wrong with America? Roger Cohen asks the troubling question: Is Trump causing the malaise in America or does he reflect what the real America is like? Did Trump get elected because there are millions and millions of Americans who share his values and principles?
How to Get Into Harvard Ever heard of lopping, dockets, or z lists? That’s what getting into college is all about according to those delving into an unusual lawsuit against Harvard. A group of Asian-Americans is suing the university claiming that there is discrimination. Harvard says it is not all about grades, especially since they could fill their classes with applicants posting perfect grades and test scores. What they seek is diversity, something which is difficult to measure. The Trump administration is gleefully jumping in, smelling an opportunity to destroy affirmative action, something that conservatives have long hated.
More News in Brief
The World Health Organization reported that 92% of people worldwide breathe unhealthy air….Did you know that pigeons can fly over 100 mph….The famed Greenwich Village newspaper The Village Voice, a mainstream voice in New York City since 1955, has gone out of business….With sales dropping for its unhealthy sugary drinks, Coca-Cola suddenly turned to coffee with a $5.1 billion purchase of coffee giant Costa….Campbell Soups is famous for its heavily-salted canned soups and vegetables. In recent years the company tried to improve its image by moving into fresher food options. On Aug. 30, Campbell announced it is abandoning this effort and instead will continue to focus on junk food….Donald Trump, the self-described champion of working class America, cancelled pay raises for all government employees for next year. Trump said the move would save the government $25 billion, money which is much needed to fund the $1.5 trillion tax cuts for the rich. The transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich was also done to spite workers who had the audacity to resist Trump’s efforts to roll back protection for union workers….In 2017, sharks killed 5 people. In the same year, humans killed about 100 million sharks….In 1970, only 10% of Americans had a college degree….Here is Philippines’ President Duterte commenting on the increasing number of rapes: “As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape” ….The Danish company Legos makes 100 million tiny plastic bricks every day. It is now trying to find a way to make its toys plastic-free….The Trump administration, caving to corporate pressure from formula “milk” producers, is trying to scuttle a World Health Assembly initiative aimed at encouraging breastfeeding….Meanwhile, public health officials are alarmed at increasing obesity in America. What does the Trump administration do? It caves to corporate food industry pressure and is proposing new rules that would limit warning labels on food products….The Red Delicious apple (looks pretty, tastes like cardboard), has finally been deposed as the nation’s favorite apple. The new favorite is Gala. Also gaining favor according to a U.S. Apple Association survey is Granny Smith, Fuji, and Honey Crisp….Only 13% of Californian homeowners (and 10% of commercial businesses) have earthquake insurance….Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free sanitary products to students. The problem was that many girls were staying home from school during their period because they could not afford to buy these products….The majority of Democrats in the Oregon House are female….More than 350,000 people have been killed since 2011 in the Syrian conflict.
Letter of the Month
To the editor Los Angeles Times, Sept. 2:
There’s an old saying about baloney: You can slice it, dice it, saute it, boil it or broil it, but it’s still baloney. That’s my take on James Kirchick’s piece on the Republican party “in exile.” Republicans are not in exile. Their leaders and rank and file support President Trump.
Kirchick’s remark that the “#Resistance” labors under the delusion that “we are living under a 20th century style despotism” is also ludicrous. Trump’s attacks on racial minorities, his dog whistles and policies against immigrants and refugees, and his relentless attacks on the press are more than an echo of past dictators. With Trump, make no mistake about it, we are careening toward fascism.
Kirchick rightfully invokes the late Sen. John McCain’s personal sacrifice and courage. But Republicans like him are few. Most cower in fear that Trump will destroy them if they speak out. Their docility and cowardice harms us all.
Mark Day, Vista, Calif.
Repeal the Second Amendment Many are tired of hearing people say “I support the 2nd Amendment, however….” Former supreme court judge says it is a relic of the 18th century and we should just get rid of it entirely. An Op-Ed in the LAT makes the same case.
The Facebook Betrayal Michael Hiltzik, columnist for the LAT worried when he noticed how Zuckerberg developed a two-class stock structure with the purpose of cementing his power over the future of Facebook. “You better hope he does everything right, because if he doesn’t he’ll be harder to get rid of than tuberculosis,” Hiltzik quipped. Now we see what Zuckerberg has been up to (in secret). Facebook with its 2.2 billion users now joins the Russians, Kushner, Cambridge Analytics, and the FBI in efforts to help the Republican throw the 2016 election. Some years ago, Mark Zuckerberg was asked why people willingly gave up so much personal information. “I don’t know why,” he said. “They trust me. Dumb….” FB has been criticized for many years for data mining of personal information and making it difficult for users to manage privacy options. In 2010, Zuckerberg admitted that FB needed better privacy controls but he never did anything about it. He is now making the same kinds of statements. Better take your picture off FB because they use facial recognition technology and everything about you starting with your face may be for sale. If you want to delete FB (it is hard to do). check this out. If you want to protect yourself from data harvesters, read this.
Big Brother is Watching You Remember when politicians railed against the dangers of Communism? Thought control is already standard operating procedure in Russian and China, and Russia now successfully uses thought manipulation (with the cooperation of Donald Trump) to manipulate elections in other countries. The Communist Party of China employs and army of fake internet commenters who spew out 448 million comments per year aimed at cheering on the government and redirecting attention to distract the public from issues the government doesn’t want them to talk (or think) about. A Georgetown professor writes about high-tech totalitarianism and what it is like to live in a surveillance state. Is this already happening here? Have we become a country where real news is dismissed as fake news, and fake news (like FOX) gets promoted as real news?
The Republican Guide to Presidential Etiquette Our February In the News column featured the official list of the 425 people and organizations that Trump has insulted. Here is another NYT list with about 50 examples of presidential behavior that are acceptable (even admired) by Republicans. Examples: Trump tells an average of 5 lies per day (over 2,000 so far). Watches 4-8 hours a day of cable TV and makes policy decisions based on what he hears on FOX. Boasts that he has signed more legislation than any other first-year president when in fact he has signed the least. Praises Norway for buying fighter airplanes that Trump has seen in video games (there are no such planes). Boasts to his rich friends that his new tax bill will make them all even richer. Says it is “disgusting” that reporters can write whatever they want and suggests that reporters who do this should be investigated. Spends about a third of his time at his golf course properties (at tax payer expense). Brags that there were no airline crashes last year because he was in office. Read the rest here.
The Republicans Fight Back Several decades ago the Republicans realized that their future was bleak unless they could somehow manipulate the popular vote. Much effort went into gerrymandering, and it worked. Donald Trump lost the popular vote by a wide margin but was able to win the gerrymandered electoral vote. In spite of this advantage, the prospects for the Donald Trump party continue to look bleak. Look for more efforts at voter suppression to help them out. The subtitle of this piece in the LAT is “Republicans have doubled down on the tactics of voter suppression.”
Beauty Contest in Washington Ever thought you would see the day when people reminisce about the good old days under Richard Nixon? The antics in our capitol have inspired a vigorous debate by Gail Collins who has written three pieces on Who Is the Best and Who is the Worst. For example, there is some good news for James Buchanan! Move over, you are no longer at the bottom of the worst president ever list! And who is worse, Trump or his lawyers? And what about the current Trump cabinet? Gail Collins rates the entire swamp. Read who is the winner.
The Gloves Come Off at the NYT The news division of the NYT continues to mute its headlines but the editorial division doesn’t mince words. A couple recent examples: In one entitled “Is Mr. Trump Nuts?” The editors debate the findings of psychiatrists who concluded that Trump has mental illness issues which are a “grave and immediate danger to the safety of America and the world.” Another editorial is about the total romp that lobbyists are now enjoying in Washington. Lobbyists stream in and out of the White House in secrecy. Favors and deals abound. A non-partisan watchdog group documents 60 lobbying groups, foreign governments, and corporations that make the stench worse than ever. All this after Trump stated during the campaign, “I’m going to fight for every person this country who believes government should serve the people – not the donors and special interests!” Is this lie # 2001?
Is Trump Honest or Dishonest? Did Donald Trump trick the American voters? Not so, says Frank Bruni who insists that Trump is the most honest president in recent times because he makes no effort to hide his ugly side. Everyone knows that he is a totally unprincipled liar, bigot, and racist. He is vengeful, has an explosive temper, ignores facts, reads very little and gets his information from television. He worships money, wallows in vanity, enjoys being a con artist, and cavorts with prostitutes. He didn’t trick anyone because this was all common knowledge and Americans elected him anyhow. The real story is what this tells us about America. See this Op-Ed with a cartoon of Trump hiding behind four Joker cards:
Is Orange County Turning Blue? Not so fast, says the LAT headline: “OC’s Conservative Side Is Alive and Well.”
Hate Groups Increasing According to the Orange County Register, there are 38 extremist hate groups in Southern California. They are becoming significantly more open and brazen, often flying high-visibility banners across freeways. Most banners are anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, and white supremist. For example, “Americans are white, the rest must go,” “Blood and soil” (an old Nazi slogan), and “Jews Did 9/11.”
The Voices of Young People
Madison Leal: “The children will become leaders as the leaders have become children.”
Sara Chadwick: “We may be young but our voices are louder than you can imagine.”
Lina Crisostomo: “I blame the government for what happened and also the people that are sending prayers and condolences but aren’t doing anything. It’s just heart-breaking to know that the people representing you are failing you.”
David Hogg: “The fact that some of the students are showing more maturity and political action than many of our elected officials is a testament to how disgusting and broken our political system is right now in America. Every day, politics is used to suppress you. I have always felt this way. Now I have the platform to speak out.”
Florence Yared: “You adults have failed us by not creating a safer place for your children to go to school. So we, the next generation, will not fail our own kids. We will make this change happen. If not today, then tomorrow. Take it from us. You created a mess for us, but we will make this world safer for our children.”
Aly Sheehy: “The children you pissed off will not forget this in the voting booth. Don’t doubt the power of the younger generation because we are a force to be reckoned with.”
Jaclyn Corin: “In the period of one month, we have shaken up the world. But I feel like the adults keep pressing the snooze button. At some point they’re going to have to wake up.”
Darct Schleifstein: We are Generation Z, the generation after the millennials. We outnumber them by nearly one million….We will flex our muscles at the ballot box, too.”
Best Letter to the Editor of the Month
To the Editor, NYT: What can you say about the state of our country when an adult film star sounds more believable and more intelligent, and is more sympathetic, than the president of the United States” Judith Katz, New York
Best Craigslist Ad
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Best Book Remember Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame? He has a new book out The Doomsday Machine which gives a terrifying account of the thinking of military planners whose job it is to come up with scenarios for the world’s final war. It is a little like Star Warriors written a few decades ago by think tank strategists who considered blowing up the moon or changing the earth obit to put our enemies in a polar climate. Ellsberg’s new book is actually an extension of the more famous one written by Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War. He originated the idea of the Doomsday Machine whose appeal was that it was quick, simple, cheap, and effective. The United States would assemble an enormous H-Bomb and bury it under a place like New York City. When the temperature in NYC reached 100,000,000 degrees (a nuclear attack), the temperature sensor would trigger the bomb which would kill all life in the northern hemisphere in short course. (It might take a few months to kill all life in the southern hemisphere.) Because of this grand theory of mutual destruction, no one would ever launch an attack. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/books/review/daniel-ellsberg-the-doomsday-machine.html Are you reassured?